The magistrate court of Eydhafushi extended the remand period of the 19 expatriate workers arrested from Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, by 15 days.
On July 2, 203 expatriate workers of RIX Maldives Pvt Ltd protested over six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals amid the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.
According to the police, vehicles and equipment used for resort development were also damaged during the protest, while some buildings were vandalised.
The extension was approved after the expiry of their initial 15-day remand period.
In 2019, Seal Maldives had contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX Maldives, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll’s Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.
Following the hostage situation, both companies issued conflicting statements regarding their respective contractual roles concerning the expatriate workers.
RIX has maintained assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries and that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers. The contractor claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by Seal Maldives’ failure to make payments.
Seal Maldives countered with a statement noting that it had made payments in addition to those mandated by agreements, and accused RIX of neglect, stating that there was no reason preventing the contractor from paying its workers. The developer also asserted that RIX was mandated to cover insurance, healthcare and Visa application costs in addition to monthly salaries.
Maldives Police Service formally accused RIX Company Pvt Ltd of human trafficking and the exploitation of foreign workers on July 6.
The police also accused RIX of terminating workers that protested over their conditions and sending them to the capital city of Male’. As per reports, RIX employees staged a silent protest on May 16, demanding full payment and clearance to leave the Maldives and return to their respective countries.
Thulhaadhoo’s Magistrate Court has also issued a temporary order, instructing RIX to assume responsibility for the foreign workers stranded on Bodufinolhu and extradite them from the island immediately.
However, RIX declined to follow the order, over alleged misidentification of the company in the court order.
The protest on Bodufinolhu took place amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in the Maldives. Violations reported include that of human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.
According to Maldives Immigration, 48 individuals from among the 203 workers possess the proper documentation.
In response to the Bodufinolhu case, left-wing political movement ‘Navaanavai’ has demanded that the Prosecutor General’s Office drop charges against the 19 people arrested over the hostage situation, given the gross mistreatment of the employees.
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